SFBW asked Doral’s top elected officials to share their insights about the city and its business climate. Here is an abridged version of their responses.
What makes Doral unique?
Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez: Doral has a vibrant residential community, and a growing commercial and industrial base with an excellent quality of life, which make it the premier place to live, work, play and learn in South Florida.
Vice Mayor Ana Maria Rodriguez: Doral has everything except a beach. We literally have almost anything for any type of lifestyle—children, adults and elderly, ranging in interests of all kind. We really are a cosmopolitan city, where many languages and nationalities can be found.
Councilwoman Claudia Mariaca: Doral represents everything South Florida is known for. The mix of cultures in our growing city is incredible. The growth and progress can be seen in our new parks, schools, infrastructure and social scene.
Councilwoman Christi Fraga: Doral is unique not only because of its strategic location near the airport and major highways, but also because of its significant, globally interconnected, highly productive and rapidly expanding economy. Fueled by its highly educated and skilled workforce, Doral’s economic revenues reached $69.4 billion in 2016.
What excites you most about Doral now?
Bermudez: That we are back on track, creating the community we originally started: controlled growth, an open and transparent government, and a focus on improving quality of life.
Rodriguez: I believe one of the most exciting things happening right now is the development of Downtown Doral. It is a fully privately funded venture—zero public dollars—and is shaping up to be one of the premier downtown areas in South Florida. It truly offers a “live-work-play-learn” component within a small area.
Mariaca: The city is now 15 [years old]. We have the opportunity to continue to envision where we want Doral to be heading. The city is now completing our police substation, and we are working on another great park.
Fraga: Doral is enjoying a dynamic, diverse and economically stable environment. We have excellent prospects for successful future growth. Nevertheless, going forward, we do need to maintain a balance. While Doral aspires to continue to serve as one of Miami-Dade County’s thriving economic engines, we should also want our growing families to feel that they can enjoy a little peace and quiet on weekends at our world-class parks and at the excellent restaurants, shopping, cultural and entertainment venues that have recently opened in our city.
Florida International University recently completed an economic competitive analysis for the city. What are your top takeaways?
Bermudez: I think the top takeaway is how well-positioned we are to be the city of the future and how the decisions we made when we first became a city helped us be in that position today. This past year, the World Council on City Data named us an ISO 37120 Platinum city—one of only four cities in the United States with that designation. [The certification, the council’s highest, goes to cities that excel in collecting and sharing data and using it for effective decision-making.]
Rodriguez: We aren’t telling our story enough. Doral is truly a gem of a city, and we need to do a better job of sharing our successes with those who don’t know about us.
Mariaca: The FIU analysis has provided great data that this council will work with, in conjunction with our economic developer, Manuel Pila, and our city manager, Edward A. Rojas.
Fraga: The FIU analysis highlighted how Doral has enjoyed explosive economic growth and population expansion, and developed into a highly preferred place to live, attracting the region’s most skilled and educated workers. The study’s recommendations are extremely important, because Doral’s future job growth will not come from traditional, land development-based, economic development practices. Leaders need to enact public policies that enhance the technological, innovation, knowledge and skills capacity of Doral’s small business network.
NerdWallet, in 2016, ranked Doral as the second-best place in Florida to start a business. What are some of the attributes you see the city offering entrepreneurs?
Bermudez: We have a great business environment with easy answers to many of the questions a budding entrepreneur can have while working to let them know where they can find needed resources. The city constantly sponsors programs on how to start and build a business. Additionally, we work with FIU, Miami Dade College and other educational institutions of higher learning to make sure the needed resources, and possible educational services to help entrepreneurs, are provided.
Rodriguez: Business leaders seek quality of life for themselves and their families. Doral is a city that offers a high quality of life for all walks of life—great schools, great nightlife, great living options and office space for all different needs.
Fraga: Doral has all of the preferential geographic, professional and economic characteristics to be one of the best places to start a business. Nevertheless, we need policy and programs targeted to educate and steer those interested in entrepreneurial activity to build on the experience, expertise and talent that already exists within our local industries. .
Additional Insights from Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez
You were one of the driving forces in the founding of the city. How have you seen it change since it was incorporated?
The city has grown greatly in both the residential and business area as it has become more attractive to our residents and businesses. We now have world-class parks, bikeways, our own police department, public works and many other departments, many schools (we had only two when incorporated) and churches (we had only one full-time place of worship when incorporated) in addition to growing restaurant and nightlife options. Most important, the residents and businesses of Doral have a much greater say in determining their future.
What are some of the major challenges
Traffic is the greatest challenge. We need to work with the state and the county to work on a solution that helps resolve what is a regional issue—traffic—that impacts Doral.
New development from Codina, The Related Group and Century is really picking up and projects are coming to fruition. What have been some of the major catalysts?
A lot of these projects that were planned in our first go-around now are coming to fruition and provide us with an opportunity to meet the goals we established. We always wanted to be in the discussion to attract a large national company, like an Amazon, or an international headquarters or an Americas headquarters of a large company. That provides the type of jobs that entices someone to live, work and play and learn here.